In patient waiting lists down, outpatients increased

There were just over 70,200 patients waiting for an inpatient or day case hospital procedure at the end of December 2018, according to figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

There were over 516,000 patients on the outpatient waiting lists at the end of 2018– an increase of 3 per cent on the previous year’s numbers.

While acknowledging there is significant work to be done, Health Minister, Simon Harris welcomed the improvements in the inpatient/day case lists achieved in 2018.
“As a result of increased activity and the ongoing collaboration between the HSE and NTPF, the number of patients waiting for an Inpatient or Day case procedure has fallen to 70,204, from a peak of 86,100 in July 2017. This represents a reduction of over 18% in the overall number of patients waiting for a procedure,” he said.

“Last year saw considerable improvements to the number of patients waiting over nine months which has almost halved since July 2017 from 28,100 to 14,900. The impact is particularly notable when one considers the improvements to the Waiting Lists for those particular specialties which were the focus of the Inpatient/Daycase Action Plan in 2018. These include the numbers waiting over nine months for a Cataract procedure which have fallen by 87% since July 2017; the numbers waiting nine months for a tonsillectomy have fallen by 84% in the same period; and angiograms have fallen by 88%.

“The figures also show that significant progress is being made in meeting the Sláintecare recommendation that patients should wait no longer than 12 weeks for an inpatient procedure. Since July 2017 the number of patients waiting longer than three months has fallen from just under 58,000 to 40,200 a fall of 31% and are now at their lowest level since 2014.”

The Minister said the outpatient waiting list remained a significant challenge, and while still too high at over 516,000, the performance in 2018 had seen some stability, with a year-on-year increase of 3%. A key priority for 2019 was to build on this stability and put an increased focus towards improving access to outpatient services for patients.
“Improving access remains a priority in 2019 and the Government has further increased investment in this area with NTPF funding increasing from €55 million in 2018 to €75 million this year.”

The Department said the number of patients waiting longer than nine months for an Inpatient/Day case procedure had fallen by 11% since November, the number waiting longer than nine months for a GI Scope procedure had increased by 8.4%, while the number of patients waiting longer than nine months for a first outpatient appointment had increased by 0.1%.

The NTPF waiting list data also reports data on the Pre-Admit, Planned Procedures and Suspensions lists.

Just over 25,000 patients who have a scheduled date for their admission are categorised as “TCI” or “To Come In”.

The report said a total of 14,027 patients were temporarily suspended from the waiting list. These are patients who, for clinical, personal or social reasons, are not ready to proceed with their care and/or treatment and may be temporarily suspended on the waiting list. The suspension category is also used where patients are being processed through various Insourcing or Outsourcing Initiatives.

Over 73,300 patients are on the Planned Procedure list and 49,691 of these patients have indicative dates in the future. This category comprises those patients who have had treatment and require additional treatment at a future date (e.g. a patient who has had a scope may require surveillance monitoring scopes in the future). Patients on the Planned Procedure list are assigned indicative dates for treatment. These indicative dates are determined by the clinician and treatment before these dates would not be appropriate.

The NTPF has placed an emphasis on reducing waiting times for patients for cataracts, hip and knee replacement or one of the other seven high volume procedures (Varicose Veins, Tonsillectomies, Cystoscopies, Coronary Angiograms, Excision of Lesions). As a result, since July 2017 the total number of patients waiting longer than the Sláintecare threshold for one of these procedures has more than halved from 25,651 to 11,959.